All Blacks Crush Australia In Championship Opener

by
Reuters
Winger Ben Smith scored a hat-trick as a ruthless New Zealand opened their Rugby Championship title defence with a six-try 47-29 victory over Australia on Saturday to ruin Ewen McKenzie's first match as Wallabies coach.

All Blacks

* New Zealand score six tries

* Heavy defeat for new Wallabies coach McKenzie

Winger Ben Smith scored a hat-trick as a ruthless New Zealand opened their Rugby Championship title defence with a six-try 47-29 victory over Australia on Saturday to ruin Ewen McKenzie's first match as Wallabies coach.

The world champions scored three tries either side of halftime at the Olympic Stadium with flyhalf Aaron Cruden, captain Richie McCaw - returning after a sabbatical - and center Conrad Smith supplementing Ben Smith's triple score.

As well as giving the All Blacks a bonus point in the Rugby Championship, the victory means Australia must win both the return in Wellington next week and a third test in Dunedin in October to win back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2003.

That looks highly unlikely given the gulf in class between the sides in Saturday's showing with the All Blacks putting huge pressure on the home side and seizing on the ensuing errors to run away with the match.

"I am obviously very happy with the performance," coach Steve Hansen said. "It's not every day that you can come here and get 40-odd points.

"(But for the) Bledisloe Cup, you have to win twice, so we haven't done anything yet," he added. "We've only done a small part of the job, but until we win two, we don't own it."

Scrumhalf Will Genia and winger James O'Connor scored what were ultimately consolation tries for the home side with Christian Leali'ifano remaining flawless in test rugby with seven kicks from seven attempts for 19 points from his boot.

McKenzie will be disappointed that his team failed to build any real momentum in attack and looked disjointed in defence as the excellent Cruden, standing in for the injured Dan Carter, consistently changed the point of attack to great effect.

"They are a good side, the best side in the world at capitalising on mistakes," McKenzie said. "They reaped the rewards for the pressure they put on. Next week's a different game."

Despite the 41-16 defeat in the third British and Irish Lions test at the same stadium last month, there was plenty of optimism among the home fans in the 68,765 crowd that a new coach and a host of fresh faces could usher in a new era.

HARSH REALITY

The hard reality of test rugby hit home after just three minutes, however, when Ben Smith crashed over in the corner for the first All Blacks try.

Australia inched back into the match on the back of three Leali'ifano penalties against one from Cruden, though, and the Wallabies centre gave the home side a 12-10 lead with his fourth after 28 minutes.

The advantage lasted less than a minute before Leali'ifano's defensive kick was charged down by Cruden, who recovered the ball to score and then converted his own try.

Three minutes later, Jesse Mogg failed to find touch with a clearance kick and the All Blacks stormed forward again with McCaw capping his return to test rugby in the best way possible with a try, his 20th in internationals, in the corner.

As so often, however, Genia provided the Wallabies with some hope after a turnover at the lineout by racing nearly 60 metres and evading three tacklers to touch down under the posts.

Leali'ifano added the extras to reduce the gap to three points but Cruden added his second penalty just before the break to send the visitors into halftime 25-19 ahead.

A fifth Leali'ifano penalty six minutes after the restart again narrowed the deficit but two tries in six minutes soon put the visitors firmly back in charge.

First centre Conrad Smith skipped past fullback Mogg to touch down under the posts for his 24th test try and in the 57th minute, now running rampant, the All Blacks swung the ball down the line to put Ben Smith in for his second score.

Cruden hit the uprights for the second time on the night with his conversion attempt but his third penalty put them over the 40-point mark and Smith scooped up the ball to get his third try when replacement Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani lost possession in the tackle.

O'Connor cut through on an overlap in the final seconds for the Wallabies but the New Zealanders in the crowd were already singing "All Blacks! All Blacks!" in celebration of a 100th test victory over their nearest neighbours.